BENNINGTON — Vermont will look even more green after the 46th annual Green Up Day on Saturday. Bags will be distributed among Bennington County towns for residents to take part in the annual statewide roadside cleanup.
Last year, 186 participants in Bennington filled 315 bags of trash for a total weight of 1,480 pounds, according to town Green-Up Day Coordinator Raymond "R.J." Joly.
In observation of this year's event, the One World Conservation Center (OWCC) will sponsor a clean up of its reserve, provide activities for children and have items for sale.
Vermont was the first state to designate a statewide cleanup day when Gov. Deane C. Davis founded it in 1970. A nonprofit, Green Up Vermont, was founded in 1979. It aims to "raise public awareness about the benefits of a litter-free environment," according to its website.
"This is a really good time [for Green Up Day] because the snow is melted and it would be hiding the garbage," OWCC Director Holly Betit said. "It's supposed to be a beautiful day, so we're hoping to spruce up the flower beds... We look at ourselves as the environmental hub here in Bennington. It's the first annual event to clean up the grounds and the center with the summer season here. We will have a small reception with refreshments and hidden prizes like a painted rock to turn in for prizes."
Compost bins will be sold for $51 (compared with the retail price of $100) and kitchen pails for $11 while reacher-grabber tools will be offered for cleanup, according to Director Holly Betit. Children will be able to make a nature journal, color with stencils, create a dragonfly out of pipe cleaners, and observe animals.
Betit quoted a motto from OWCC volunteer Michael Stern: "If not now, when? If not me, who?"
"We all drive by on the roads and see all the trash," she said. "There's more and more every day."
Every day is a Green-Up Day, she said, adding that she encourages people to have bags with them for when they see trash along roads.
Megan Randall, of Pownal, said she often finds cans, bottles and litter while walking through her neighborhood.
Some may say it's futile or foolish to head out by themselves with a garbage bag in tow, she said. But for her, keeping the roadsides clean is a matter of community pride.
"I want people to know that there are people who care and want to make Pownal a better place," she said.
Randall said she and other Pownal residents will gather at the intersection of Mt. Anthony Road and North Pownal Road for a roadside cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday in observation of Green Up Day.
But Randall encouraged Vermonters to organize cleanups anytime and pointed to when she and 20 residents gathered on Indian Massacre Road one Saturday last spring. They called themselves Pownal Cares and used four-by-fours, trucks and tractors to remove 242 tires, a dozen mattresses, a couch, and at least 50 bags of trash from a roadside dump.
"We want to set an example," she said, adding that the group is planning another cleanup for September.
Depending on the town, free cleanup bags are available at town hall and/or the transfer station.
For information about town coordinators, locations of where to meet, and instructions for where to pick up and leave bags, visit www.greenupvermont.org.
Bennington's coordinator, Raymond "R.J." Joly, can be reached at 802-442-1037; Arlington's coordinator is Donna Squires (802-375-6680); Pownal's coordinator is Tom Shuey (802-379-1470); Sandgate's coordinator is Marge Peff (802-375-9075); Shaftsbury's coordinator is Helen Olney (802-442-2757); Sunderland's coordinator is John Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org); and Woodford is Susan Wright (802-442-4895).
Reporter Edward Damon contributed to this story.